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Fabulous Flip Sides interviews Jim Peterik of The Ides of March

We interviewed Jim Peterik of The Ides of March, formerly of Survivor and .38 Special fame, about the 50th anniversary of “Vehicle,” a new song with members of Chicago, the new Dennis DeYoung album, and covers of his music by American Idol’s Bo Bice and “Weird Al” Yankovic
Current Ides of March band publicity photo, Jim Peterik in the center

Current Ides of March band publicity photo, Jim Peterik in the center

GOLDMINE: What a wonderful surprise it was to hear a your new song on SiriusXM ‘60s on 6 "Everything's Gonna Work Out Fine" with the artist listed as Robert Lamm/Jim Peterik/Feat. Neil Donell. As you recall, my wife Donna and I were out for our weekly Friday lunch date, heard the song and she took a photo of the car radio screen.

JIM PETERIK: Yes and after my immediate “OMG!” text to you, I sent Donna’s photo straight to Robert and Neil. Thank you again for the report and digging our new song.

GM: You are welcome. The sound certainly combines two of my favorite Chicago groups, The Ides of March and the band Chicago, with Neil joining in 2018 after our daughter Brianna and I saw the group here in Florida. My family and I love going to concerts and certainly miss it this year.

JP: We had a lot of Ides of March shows planned mainly on the eastern part of The United States and I swear we hadn’t had a tour like that planned since 1972. It is a drag, but we are rescheduling a lot of the shows.

GM: Do you have any Cornerstones of Rock shows coming up with other Chicago area bands that I have interviewed like The Buckinghams, who Brianna and I met in Jacksonville, and The New Colony Six?

JP: We do. In addition to us and those two bands, The Cryan’ Shames and The Shadows of Knight are also featured, with the next show being an outdoor concert in Oshkosh at the Leach Amphitheater on August 13. Fans can check our website for more information.

Peterik Ideology

GM: If we were still in the area, Donna, Brianna and I would certainly catch one of the shows. We lived in the Chicago area from 1989 through 1993 and during that time, from August through December of 1989, WCFL came back with an FM oldies station and I recorded five cassettes of songs. That is where I learned your pre-“Vehicle” songs on the Parrot label from the mid-1960s. I have the Ideology compilation CD next to me, covering those early years. “You Wouldn’t Listen” immediately reminds me of The Kinks’ “Tired of Waiting” classic guitar lines.

JP: Oh man, you mentioned one of my favorite songs. They’re all my babies, but that one was the first time we had one out on an official label, Parrot, as label-mates with The Zombies, Engelbert Humperdinck, Tom Jones, and more. Everybody thought we were from Britain. We had to use fake accents one time because the promoter pulled a fast one. It is a very cool record. We recorded it at Sound Studios on Michigan Avenue, which was the first time we were in a professional studio. Stu Black, who engineered the recordings of The Cryan’ Shames and The New Colony Six was our engineer. The guitar is somewhat of a rip-off of “Tired of Waiting,” but I changed enough notes that it was okay. I call it The Kinks meets Curtis Mayfield, because it had that R&B chord progression, but we were so influenced by the British Invasion bands. It went to No. 42 on Billboard and No. 7 on WLS locally in Chicago. I was fifteen years old and it was incredible to have a Top 40 record on the radio at that age. That summer we went to Florida and played dates with a group called The Allman Joys, who became The Hour Glass, and then The Allman Brothers Band. No wonder they were so good.

GM: You played near where we live now in Daytona Beach.

JP: Wow. We played that club there as it was their hometown.

GM: Your next single was “Roller Coaster,” a catchy pop song.

JP: Oh man, I love that song. I am going to sound like a broken record. I love all these early songs. They were so innocent. “Roller Coaster” was our version of The Lovin’ Spoonful’s “Summer in the City.” I know that sounds weird but I remember saying, “We’ve got to get that bass sound,” so Stu Black put the whole mix through a giant compressor so it captured that sound, like Tom Petty before his time.

GM: Then there are a couple of flip sides that I really enjoy. There is “Girls Don’t Grow on Trees,” with a Hollies sound as the flip side of your version of “Hole in My Soul.”

JP: That’s another one of my favorites. The title sounds a little weird now. We did two takes on that song and the producer said, “Good work!”

GM: Another one that I learned on Chicago oldies radio, which is the flip side of “You Need Love,” is your catchy and fun version of “Sha-La-La-La-Lee.”

JP: There’s the Small Faces original, and no one can beat it, but we were paying homage to that song, putting our slant on it and that became our set opener. I remember when we opened for Paul Revere and The Raiders in 1967 and it felt good playing “Sha-La-La-La-Lee” and the people loved it.

GM: Then there came a little bit of brass with “My Foolish Pride.”

JP: That was the harbinger of things to come. At that time we had only one horn player, Steve Daniels, on that bittersweet song and I was doing my best John Lennon imitation. We had this little organ, which was really a toy. It was a terrible little organ but I loved the sound of it.

GM: In terms of things to come, now we celebrate the 50th anniversary of “Vehicle.” Congratulations. Decades later we saw this performed on television a few times by Bo Bice on American Idol.

JP: That was a real moment. As usual, we had no warning that this was going to happen. We’re always the last to know. I was in Nashville doing some co-writing. I was going down the hotel elevator and I got a call from Mike Borch, The Ides’ drummer, and he asked, “Where are you?” I said, “I am in the elevator.” He said, “Get back to your room. There’s this guy on American Idol. He looks like Jesus Christ and he is singing the heck out of 'Vehicle.'” I raced upstairs, turned on the TV and there was this guy who looked and sounded like a million bucks, with long hair, swinging around, and nailing it. It was one of the most exciting times that I have ever had.

Peterik Bo

GM: On his CD single “Inside Your Heaven,” “Vehicle” became the CD single flip side equivalent as the second song on the single. He went on to Blood, Sweat & Tears for awhile and speaking of Blood, Sweat & Tears, that’s the sound that I hear when I listen to your second 1970 single, following “Vehicle,” called “Superman” with more of a David Clayton-Thomas vocal sound.

JP: I’ll tell you what, David Clayton-Thomas was my vocal hero. I love his talent. I was very influenced by his vocal style on “Superman” and on “Vehicle” too.

GM: On the flip side of “Superman” there is more of a Neil Diamond-like vocal opening on “Home.”

JP: On man, I love that song! Here I go again. It is a beautiful song with an amazing arrangement by Hoyt Jones, who did wonderful orchestration for The New Colony Six with “I Will Always Think About You” and “Things I’d Like to Say.” He didn’t charge us for the first session. He said, “I want you to get hooked on my arrangements.” Boy did he impress us. I still get goose bumps hearing it.

Peterik flip side

The Ides of March

Flip side: Home

A side: Superman

Top 100 debut: July 4, 1970

Peak position: No. 64

Warner Bros. 7403

GM: Then there is one more Ides song to discuss. Your next Top 100 single was “L.A. Goodbye” with Crosby, Stills & Nash-like harmonies.

JP: Again, we were like musical tofu. We took the flavors that were around us at any given time. The Ides were so young. “Vehicle” was out when we were nineteen. “L.A. Goodbye” was out when we were twenty. We were still trying to find out who we were, therefore our musical styles were really all over the place. We loved Crosby, Stills & Nash’s first album. I still put it on. That’s how great that album is. “L.A. Goodbye” I wrote on the airplane coming back from L.A. We had gone out there to promote “Vehicle,” which was in the Top 5 at the time, and we played The Whisky-A-Go-Go with Tony Joe White and Stephen Stills, opening for them. We were out there for over a week and we were just gobsmacked. What a beautiful town with palm trees. We did The Mama Cass TV Show, which was a Dick Clark production, and got to meet Dick Clark and did some other local television as well. On the way back it was a bittersweet feeling because we just had such an amazing time but we also kind of missed the bungalows of Berwyn, Illinois. I wrote the lyrics on a barf bag on the plane. The recording really shows off The Ides’ harmony and at least in Chicago it is a beloved song. It was No. 1 for five weeks on WLS.

GM: It reached No. 2 on WCFL, which is great as well and of four of your songs, “L.A. Goodbye” charted the highest. I have a WFCL chart book compiled by Ron Smith that I bought in Westmont.

JP: I did not know that. That’s awesome. So cool!

GM: Now let’s travel east of Westmont back to Berwyn where there is a section of Home Avenue now known as The Ides of March Way, near Cermak Avenue that I used to take from my Oak Brook office to go oldies 45 shopping at Beverly Records.

JP: We were really honored. They gave us the key to the city. There was a big ceremony that the city sponsored in an auditorium full of fans where we used to do the high school assemblies. That section of the street is right in front of our old school, Morton West High School in Berwyn. It was a huge honor. I have a reproduction of the street sign hanging on my wall as a reminder.

GM: You mentioned good weather and palm trees in California. We also have that here in Florida, at least until the summer heat hits. Did you spend any time here with .38 Special in Jacksonville?

JP: Hell yeah! They had a really funky but great rehearsal place in Jacksonville plus I have relatives on my wife’s side who live there. I got to visit them too. I remember working out “Fantasy Girl” in that very warehouse with the guys. Those were the days, man. Every band has an arc and they were right at the top of their arc at that time and I was thrilled to be a part of it.

Peterik 38

GM: When you were there we were living in Dallas at the time and at Sound Wherehouse record store, by the counter, they had a stack of “Hold On Loosely” 45s with a sign of “.38 Special for .38 Cents” which I couldn’t say no to and it became the first Top 40 single for the group, which you co-wrote with Don Barnes and Jeff Carlisi.

JP: That is probably my favorite of all of our collaborations. The first of our collaborations in the Top 100 was “Rockin’ Into the Night,” which we recorded to be part of the first Survivor album. On Survivor’s Super Hits CD you can hear a demo of the song. One manager talked to another manager and .38 Special needed a hit and loved it. We didn’t even know they recorded it. We were on the west coast to shoot a video and on the radio we heard “Rockin’ Into the Night” by .38 Special. We said, “What?” It was supposed to be on our album but the producer didn’t think it fit our style and was too southern rock. It was our loss but their gain. About a year later the guys from .38 Special came to my house in La Grange, Illinois to write with me. I asked if anyone had any titled and Don Barnes piped up, “I’ve got one. ‘Hold on Loosely’ and don’t let go.” I said, “Wow, yeah!” Jeff Carlisi said, “I don’t know if this will fit,” and then played a Cars-like guitar part with eighth notes and I said, “That’s amazing.” I put it together. I kind of became the alchemist and that was quite a moment. I went away, came out of the bedroom and had written almost the final lyrics for the song. I like that song because there is a lot of truth to it which I live, which is to step back and give people room to breathe.

Peterik Rocky III

GM: Donna loved the original Rocky film and became a Sylvester Stallone fan. Rocky III was coming to Dallas with Sylvester Stallone taking questions after the film. I went to Sound Wherehouse, bought tickets and we heard “Eye of the Tiger” for the first time. What a powerful song and I know we have covered “Eye of the Tiger” a few times in Goldmine in recent years. This song was not only the opening song on the Rocky III soundtrack but also on the Rocky IV soundtrack which opens with “Burning Heart,” another strong Survivor song.

JP: Yes, I love “Burning Heart.” I call it the Avis of Rocky songs because it is No. 2 but it tries harder. It is a favorite for a lot of people because “Eye of the Tiger” is so obvious, but the real Survivor fans feel that they are in a special club if they mention “Burning Heart.” We put a lot of heart and soul in that song. Sylvester Stallone is very active in the writing process. He demands so much of the writers. He wanted to make sure that every line was as strong as the one before, which really motivates you to write over your head with phrases like “rival nations” for that particular film. Finally we presented it to him and at the time we were calling it “The Unmistakable Fire.” I told him that line was at the end of the chorus. The first line in the chorus was, “In the human heart about to burst” which he didn’t like and we suggested “burning” instead of “human” and he loved it. He is a very hands on kind of a guy but at the end of the day you do your best for Stallone, man.

Peterik Rocky IV

GM: Going back to “Eye of the Tiger” for a moment, I remember hearing it used for a situation in Kentucky and I thought it was being misused and I reached out to Jimy Sohns of The Shadows of Knight and said, “Jimy please reach out to Jim and let him know that this is going on” and I think within the same day you had a cease and desist order against using it.

JP: Yes. Thank you for reaching out. We have been trying to safeguard the use of that song. Every song has a purpose. We have turned down many opportunities to make a ton of money on “Eye of the Tiger” usually for rap and hip hop lyrics that are misogynistic or just plain filthy. That isn’t the purpose of this song. It is intended to be a motivational anthem.

GM: My favorite alternate version of it is “Weird Al” Yankovic’s “Theme From Rocky XIII” which makes me think about growing up in my father’s deli.

JP: Ah, “the rye or the kaiser.” That is an exception to the rule because that is good humor. It is just a riot. I remember when we first got the request I was uncertain that I wanted this done to our sacred song, then Frankie Sullivan, who I co-wrote it with in Survivor, said that it really wasn’t about the money, but that it was really good. Then Michael Jackson approved what would become the first single from that album, “Eat It” instead of “Beat It.” I said to myself that if Michael Jackson okays it then we should also okay it. Now on every royalty statement I look at, there is “Theme From Rocky XIII.”

Peterik Weird Al

GM: On The Beach Boys most recent album of new material you co-wrote the title song “That’s Why God Made the Radio.”

JP: That is one of my proudest moments. I love Brian Wilson and I have written quite a few songs with Brian. We would get together from time to time and we were at an Italian restaurant talking about AM radio and how we would love to hear a hit song pumping through the low fidelity of the AM radio band on the dashboard of the car and Brian said offhandedly, “That’s why God made the radio.” I wrote that down. It took a few years to get the song right for the ultimate version. Lo and behold it became the reunion album and tour called That’s Why God Made the Radio. I saw it at The Chicago Theatre with my family, my wife Karen on one side, and my son Colin on my other side who turned to me and said, “This has got to be a pretty proud moment for you.” I said, “Are you kidding? It doesn’t get much better than this to write with your hero and to hear it on stage.” It is truly one of my favorite songs that I have ever co-written.

GM: You also have recently co-written songs with Dennis DeYoung for his new 26 East album. On "East of Midnight" I like the use of "vehicle" and "best of times" in the lyrics, combining The Ides of March and Styx.

JP: This is one of my favorite songs on 26 East. It seems to capture the grand magic of the Dennis DeYoung Styx years with the soaring melody, sweeping vintage synthesizers and some oddball chord changes in kind of a commercial progressive rock way.

GM: On "Run for the Roses" I love the couplet, "don't be the runner up, go claim the loving cup" on this motivational song.

JP: That’s another favorite of mine. Actually, this song got the whole album in gear. I was doing the Frontiers Fest concert in Milan and one day I was wandering through an old cemetery. Then and there I wrote the initial song. I sent an iPhone demo to Dennis from Italy and he flipped out and began writing lyrics fast and furious. Sometimes it only takes one song to set the tone. After that we never looked back.

GM: Donna and my favorite song is "Unbroken," what a beautiful anthem!

JP: “Against the rain we’ll form a chain unbroken.” Our biggest decision was whether to make this a love song or a motivational anthem for a world in chaos. Dennis’ amazing lyrics made the choice easy. This is a classic in my opinion.

Peterik DeYoung

GM: Thank you for all these songs. Dennis and I will be doing a Goldmine Fabulous Flip Sides interview article like this early next year and will be including some of the new songs. Earlier you mentioned AM radio. I assume that you listened to Dick Biondi on the air growing up.

JP: Oh my god, Dick Biondi is just an icon and a dear friend. We are such good pals. I talk to him every couple of weeks. I miss the days when The Ides would sing at the Holy Name Cathedral with original Christmas songs to an audience of 1500 people and Dick would get up on the pulpit and give a special Christmas wish that was very meaningful and kind of funny too. We go back so far. The Ides were doing sock hops and he would introduce us. I remember many times The Ides would sing the national anthem at White Sox Park. We rooted for the Cubs too, but more for the Sox. After the anthem we would walk back to our seats and when we walked with Dick Biondi, The Ides would disappear and only Dick would get noticed. That’s how beloved this guy is in Chicago.

GM: Brianna was probably nine or ten and we got to meet him and he was such a gentleman. He gave her an Oldies 104.3 watch and autographed an album for her.

JP: Yes, he is a dear spirit and I was lucky to grow up with him under my pillow on my transistor radio on a station that would later play our music. I love Goldmine. I buy it on the stands. You guys have been rocking for so many years. I’m glad you are out there. It is a great magazine. Thank you and I send my best from my family to yours.

Peterik guitar

Related links:

Goldmine Podcast with Dennis DeYoung 2020